Nutrition Policy Institute researchers led a recent study published in the California Agriculture journal. During COVID-related school closures school meal consumption was associated with eating more fruits and vegetables.. Researchers administered online surveys to 3,297 fourth and fifth-grade students in 67 CalFresh Healthy Living–eligible schools and after-school programs in California during the pandemic. Survey results showed that, on average, students who ate one or more school meals daily consumed fruit and vegetables four times per day. This was significantly higher than students who did not eat school meals; they consumed fruits only two times and vegetables three times per day. However, 100% fruit juice accounted for 40% of daily fruit intake and students who ate school meals had significantly higher sugar-sweetened beverage intake with three-quarters of it coming from flavored milk. Study results suggest an opportunity for improvement in supporting and encouraging schools to continue providing nutritious meals, whole fruits instead of 100% juice, and reduce sugary drink consumption by promoting unflavored milk. The study was led by NPI researchers Kaela Plank, Amanda Linares, Sridharshii Hewawitharana, and Gail Woodward-Lopez. This study was conducted as a part of a contract with the California Department of Public Health with funding from the USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.
- Author: Brianna Aguayo Villalon
- Editor: lauren au
A recent study found that higher infant diet quality scores observed in Hispanic Spanish-speaking participants account for certain racial and ethnic variations in later diet quality, suggesting that enhancing infant nutrition could mitigate early childhood diet disparities. Researchers focused on data from participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, to analyze nutritional practices based on racial and ethnic differences among young children. The researchers found that infant diet quality among Hispanic Spanish-speaking families accounted for 25% of later diet disparities based on racial and ethnic differences. The study was published in The Journal of Nutrition, including authors Lauren Au, Charles Arnold, and Sarina Lin from the University of California, Davis, Department of Nutrition, Lorrene Ritchie from the Nutrition Policy Institute, and Edward Frongillio from the University of South Carolina, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior.
- Author: Brianna Aguayo Villalon
- Editor: Danielle Lee
- Editor: Gail Woodward
The article, “Associations between Changes in Food Acquisition Behaviors, Dietary Intake, and Bodyweight during the COVID-19 Pandemic among Low-Income Parents in California” was recently published in the Nutrients journal. Low-income parents in California reported changes in food/meal acquisition behaviors, dietary intake, and body weight from before to during the pandemic through an online survey conducted from April through August 2021. The study found that decreased supermarket or farmer's market shopping was associated with decreased fruit and vegetable intake and increased unhealthy snack consumption. Online food and meal ordering were associated with higher intakes of sweets, salty snacks, fast food, and increases in weight. Increases in cooking healthy home meals were associated with improved nutrition outcomes. This research suggests a need for interventions that support healthy home cooking and address the negative effects of online food/meal shopping to help mitigate health disparities post-pandemic and prepare for future similar emergencies. The study was led by Nutrition Policy Institute researchers, Gail Woodward-Lopez, Erin Esaryk, Suzanne Rauzon, Sridharshi C. Hewawitharana, with Hannah R. Thompson of the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, and California Department of Public Health co-authors Ingrid Cordon and Lauren Whetstone.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California, provides monthly electronic benefits for food purchases to over 40 million individuals with low incomes across the US. However, SNAP agencies do not typically provide participants with information about food or nutrition. A pilot study was conducted to understand whether a CalFresh agency can send food and nutrition-based text messages, and if so, whether they can be effective. NPI researchers received a grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Specialty Crop Block Grant Program to test the idea. In collaboration with UCSD, ideas42, and the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, five monthly SMS text messages in English and Spanish were sent to over 170,000 SNAP households. Each text message contained a link to a website offering additional information on topics including the health benefits of different fruits and vegetables, cost-savings associated with seasonal produce, recipes and tips to reduce food waste. After 5 months, survey respondents showed a significant increase in knowledge about selecting, storing, and preparing fruits and vegetables. Over half of respondents self-reported purchasing and eating more California-grown fruits and vegetables at follow-up and nearly all respondents expressed interest in continuing to receive text messages. The findings suggest that text messages are a promising strategy to provide useful and relevant information on food and nutrition to SNAP participants. The research, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, was conducted by Wendi Gosliner, Celeste Felix, Ron Strochlic, and Hannah Thompson from the Nutrition Policy Institute, University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Shana Wright and Blanca Melendrez from the UC San Diego Center for Community Health; Allison Yates-Berg from ideas42; and Hao Tang from Colombia University. Funding for this project was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 19-0001-054. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA. Additional funding was received from the National Institutes of Health grant UL1TR001442.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), known as CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) in California, is the largest nutrition education program in the United States. CFHL supports healthy eating and active living in eligible California communities through direct education and policy, systems, and environmental changes, with a large portion of program activities taking place in schools. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced K-12 school closures, school-based in-person CFHL programming was adapted for online delivery. A new study examined the impact of modified CFHL program delivery during COVID-19 on dietary intake and physical activity among students in 47 intervention and 17 comparison schools. Researchers found that participation in CFHL during school closures significantly increased student fruit and vegetable intake. Findings demonstrate the protective effect of comprehensive nutrition and physical activity education programs during emergency social distancing measures. This study, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal, was conducted by Amanda Linares, Kaela Plank, Sridharshi Hewawitharana, and Gail Woodward-Lopez of the Nutrition Policy Institute with funding from the USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education.